Hello Friend — Lotty Burns transcription

Bethany: This episode contains discussion of Weight Watchers, Slimming World and similar programmes. If you think you would not enjoy listening to that, I would advise skipping the second half of this programme.

[Intro music]

Bethany: Hello friends and welcome to Hello Friend, my name is Bethany Rutter, and today’s guest is Lotty Burns. Lotty is a moneysaving genius. That is literally her job: to know every deal, tip, trick or glitch around that would enable you to save money one the stuff that you may or may not need. But first: how do we know each other?

Lotty: So I know you from Twitter. Just being a loudmouth on Twitter- me. And you, to be fair.

Bethany: Yeah, also me.

Lotty: I think we sort of, yeah, attracted each other, we got chatting, I discovered your blog and Callie’s blog and Danie’s blog, being a big girl myself, and just reading it. You guys really inspired me, which is why I set up my own blog — it’s a bit different to yours-

Bethany: Yep! We’ll come to that.

Lotty: — Because of my skillset. But yeah, just social media. It’s awesome to actually meet people in real life isn’t it?

Bethany: We have been in the same…

Lotty: I saw you once but I chickened out of saying hello!

Bethany: And where was that place?

Lotty: The Santander Media Awards!

Bethany: Now… we need to explain this.

Lotty: Yeah! Like why were you there?! What were you doing?

Bethany: Yeah, why was I at the Santander media awards? I will tell you Lotty, and anyone else who doesn’t know: my first job when I left university was at a financial magazine! I was a financial journalist.

Lotty: Were you?!

Bethany: I was!

Lotty: So you probably know more than me then!

Bethany: No. I genuinely don’t. Shoutout to two people that I hope are listening to this, which is Jon Cudby and Charlotte Richards who were my colleagues at Money Management magazine from 2012 to 2013, who remain some of the coolest people that I know and who tolerated my terrible… attitude to financial journalism. It was not the place for me.

Lotty: Were you just not into it?

Bethany: [sighs] I wanted to be, because I liked the people that I worked with so much, but I just… I’m one of those people that… was really bad at GCSEs and then got better the less subjects I had to study…

Lotty: I’m the opposite, I peaked at about 14.

Bethany: So you’re, like, a generalist? So you like to know a lot about different things. Whereas I will only try hard at stuff that interests me. So the less stuff that I have to do that is not relevant to my own specific and personal interests, the better. And oddly enough, a magazine for financial advisors was not the forum for me to…

Lotty: B to B is a bit dry isn’t it?

Bethany: It was really cool, and I got to do loads of stuff like I would write the cover feature and I’d talk to really interesting people but my heart just wasn’t in it, and I feel really bad about it. Yeah. I feel like I squandered an opportunity that I should have made more of but I understand why that’s how it was.

Lotty: It wasn’t meant to be.

Bethany: It was not meant to be, but that was why I was at the Santander Media Awards.

Lotty: That was my first ever awards ceremony.

Bethany: And were you at one last night? Did you go to Headline Money?

Lotty: Yeah, Headline Money, I was up for finance blog of the year. Didn’t win it but my friend Andy from Be Clever With Your Cash did and he’s amazing so I’m really glad he did. I’ve been going to that for three years now.

Bethany: And Headline Money is the big one.

Lotty: Yeah, the big one,

Bethany: That was one of the last things I did before I changed jobs, I went to the Headline Money awards.

Lotty: It’s really nice because I’m starting to know people in the industry, because when you first go to these things, you don’t know anyone and you’re just sort of like hanging around for the free booze, trying to find a friendly face and now I’m starting to know each other and it’s a bit less awkward.

Bethany: And you’re, like, establishing yourself in that world.

Lotty: I’m trying to.

Bethany: So clearly the world of financial journalism worked out better for you because you do still work with money stuff. How did you make your way to your status as Moneysaving Queen on a self-employed basis?

Lotty: It’s such a long story, but we’ve got time, so why not…

Bethany: We do!

Lotty: I left university with a law degree and I sort of moved to London wiht my boyfriend and my mate and I thought I was going to be so rich…

Bethany: That the path to London was paved with gold.

Lotty: Yeah, proper baller about it. Got a flat in Notting Hill…

Bethany: What?!

Lotty: Yeah, we went big. Honestly, we were so arrogant. This is like 2009 and the crash happened but still oblivious to it all, and got through all of my money, had nothing. It was so bad. I went on benefits, I lost my benefits, ended up sofa-surfing, honestly it was ridiculous.

Bethany: You mismanaged every possible situation!

Lotty: Every situation. There was a point where we were on this friend’s sofa just… no heating, no water just going ‘what is my life? Why is this happening?’ And then I just got into trying to get back a bit of control. I look back now and it was quite funny, the whole situation. It was ridiculous. But I felt… I was depressed. That’s what happened. Got into Twilight books. That’s how…

Bethany: That’s how depressed you were!

Lotty: I got really into Twilight books. It was better than my life! So I got into Moneysavingexpert with Martin Lewis.

Bethany: So you started reading that.

Lotty: Yeah, just reading his website. Just little things like how to go to the cinema for free, which made a massive difference when you weren’t ever leaving your house because you couldn’t afford it and what was the point. Little things like that. And it was so empowering and it was really important to me, and I got really, really good at it. I noticed a job came up, went for it, with Martin. And he was like ‘well you’re not a journalist’ and I said ‘well… I know more about couponing than anyone else, trust me’ and he gave me a job and that’s how I got into the industry.

Bethany: So you felt like you did have to justify yourself, that you weren’t a journalist, but also you have this actual life skill.

Lotty: Life experience — I live and breathe it, I care about it. It’s really sad, but one of the things I remember writing in my CV was like ‘I want to do a supermarket shop and pay nothing for it’ — that’s my ambition! But back then that was the dream and I think he could see a bit of… not everyone cares in this industry about what they write about.

Bethany: Yeah totally! I was a journalist who had no relationship to my writing.

Lotty: I meet them all the time, they just don’t care, they’re just doing it. And I think you could tell that I really liked it. I was doing that for a while and then I was editor at StudentMoneysaver, was made redundant from there one September, which to be honest isn’t a bad thing at all. And then just decided to go freelance, make it happen.

Bethany: You were like ‘I’m not going to look for another job, I’m just going to be my job.’

Lotty: I started a blog and I wasn’t really doing anything with it, just a bit now and then, but I thought ‘I can make this make money, surely? Why not?’ My expertise is making other people money, why can’t I do it for myself. So I just went freelance, I’ve been doing it about a year now.

Bethany: I was going to ask you, a question that came to me was, like, are you good with money or do you find it hard to take your own advice, and clearly the answer is that you are your advice, this isn’t advice that you’re dispensing from a journalistic point of view, this is like ‘I live my life this way and I’m monetising that by encouraging people to do the same.’

Lotty: I’m a spender, though. There are bloggers, amazing bloggers out there, who are really thrifty, and hardly spend anything. But that’s not me. I’ll happily go on big holidays but I’ll do it in the most… in the cleverest way I possibly can to make every penny count.

Bethany: So your goal is to, like, maximise getting what you want and minimise what you have to pay to get it.

Lotty: I like to call it luxury on a budget!

Bethany: Yeah!

Lotty: I’m a big believer in… I don’t get in debt for anything, I’ll save up, so I’ll go on big big holidays that cost a lot of money but I’ll start booking it two years in advance and make it work like that. I try and do it sensibly, try and get a deal or a coupon.

Bethany: I love a deal. But obviously I think something that is important and you know this and I know this, that, like, you cannot Moneysavingexpert your way out of the terrible economy.

Lotty: No.

Bethany: And there’s all this stuff around about like how if millenials stop eating avocado on toast…

Lotty: I couldn’t even read that!

Bethany: It’s just so silly and pointless. And I think it’s important we say for the record that you cannot save money if you don’t have money.

Lotty: No, it’s impossible. It’s hard. The only thing I would say is that you can do lots of research and get a little bit of control, like cinema tickets, I know that was a silly thing but for me it was so important, when you have nothing and you just have to do what you can and not beat yourself up. I wrote a response piece to a BBC article a few months ago about getting on the property ladder when you’re under 25. You shouldn’t be! Don’t pressure yourself!

Bethany: If you’re able to get on the property ladder under 25 it means you’re probably from a family that can enable you to do that.

Lotty: What they were doing was encouraging, first of all, young people in relationships, and it’s just like… how many of you are still with your boyfriend from when you were 19?

Bethany: Certainly not me!

Lotty: That’s not a clever decision. It’s not wise to just get on the property ladder and there are people who never move out of their family home and I just think if you really want to make money and do that, fine, but go out and have fun! You don’t need a house

Bethany: And not everyone can stay living with their parents, for financial reasons, social reasons, work reasons, whatever. And it’s just such an unrealistic goal and it feels like it’s important to acknowledge that when we’re talking about moneysaving tips we’re talking about saving money on stuff you’re going to buy anyway, this isn’t a way to get yourself…

Lotty: Your goals are different to my goals. We’ve all got moneysaving goals, whether that’s to get out of thousands of pounds of debt or it’s saving for a flat or if it’s just surviving, there’s…

Bethany: Or buying something cool at the least possible cost to yourself.

Lotty: Exactly!

Bethany: And they’re all fine things to want to do. But yeah, you cannot moneysave your way out of a terrible economy that was built to beat up young people.

Lotty: And is probably going to get worse.

Bethany: It’ll only get worse… So I want to talk about the moneysaving greatest hits: what is the glitch to end all glitches in your career, like the best stuff you’ve scored for free or cheap, by fair play or foul?

Lotty: Ok…

Bethany: Cast your mind back.

Lotty: My favourite one would be the sofas I’ve got. They’re £600 sofas I got for £30! There was a glitch on the site and they actually came! I had to wait six months for them but I couldn’t believe that actually happened.

Bethany: And they’re sofas that you wanted? They’re not just, like…

Lotty: They’re… fine. I’m gonna be honest with you, they’re fine.

Bethany: They’re sofas.

Lotty: I was just like they’re £30, I’ve got no money, they’re going to do. They’re not offensive. They’re not the dream sofa.

Bethany: But they’re not a sofa with a swastika on.

Lotty: They’re not that. They’re fine… so that was amazing. Another one was…

Bethany: A £600 sofa for £30! And that was literally just that the company put the wrong price on the website?

Lotty: Yeah, that’s my favourite way of doing this. And then there’s, like, when I first started MoneySavingExpert, there was a glitch on cheese. If you bought 8 packs of cheese, it all went down to 30p or something like that.

[Bethany laughs loudly]

Lotty: And my job at that time was going around all the Tescos in London buying up all the cheese and carrying them back.

Bethany: That was literally your job or that was your personal project?

Lotty: No it was like ‘go and see what you can get for the article.’

Bethany: Oh cool!

Lotty: So I spent days wandering around and carrying back a huge amount of cheese and sticking it in my freezer.

Bethany: For future consumption. So do brands like moneysaving sites or are you their nemesis?

Lotty: They… do you know what, I’ve pissed off some brands. Like Boots don’t like me.

Bethany: You’re just too thrifty. You’re too thrifty for Boots.

Lotty: Some really do- so for MoneySavingExpert, brands can’t… they do anything to be on there.

Bethany: Because MoneySavingExpert has such a huge platform that it doesn’t matter whether they’re giving a deal which gives some money off, the people that will be exposed to that brand through MoneySavingExpert will more than compensate for it.

Lotty: Back in my day, and that was like three years ago, they had over 10 million people.

Bethany: That’s so wild.

Lotty: And newspapers don’t get that! They don’t even get close to it.

Bethany: And to be honest, if I’m going to do something, if I’m being forced to spend money on something I don’t really want to spend money on, I will look on MoneySaving Expert to see if there’s a way that I don’t have to pay for this thing.

Lotty: Because I’m thrifty and good with money and my readers know that, if I’m saying to you, this is a really cool product, I think it’s a bargain actually, people tend to listen to me, so brands know there’s value in that. Whereas magazines will flog anything that’s being paid for. They do like… they want your face, that’s what they want.

Bethany: And there’s a level of trust, you’re seen as an authority in this space.

Lotty: And you’ve got to be so careful not to abuse it. It shocked me, I got to a point where I was like ‘people will actually go buy what I say’ and I do my best not to con anyone or give bad financial advice, or recommend payday loans and all that shit that would make me loads of money, but…

Bethany: I guess it’s like…

Lotty: People do.

Bethany: You do have a really big responsibility when you’re writing about finance, that’s true, I hadn’t thought about that.

Lotty: Honestly the money I could make if I promoted certain things, which I won’t, because I don’t think it’s good for readers… there’s other ways. You can make a living from it.

Bethany: You do make a living from it!

Lotty: Yeah, just about, it’s starting out!

Bethany: Are you enjoying being in charge of your time and your schedule or do you find it’s quite scary sometimes?

Lotty: Because I’m gobby and I like people, I thought working from home would be the worst thing in the world but honestly it’s amazing, I love it. You still have meetings and you still go see your mates so it’s not like you don’t see anyone, which is what I thought would happen. It’s good just managing your time, not dealing with politics and managers or people you don’t respect.

Bethany: And having to ask when you want to go on holiday… or chasing some form that HR have.

Lotty: But you know what, though, I’ve found I’m not good with the money aspect of it though. So, I always feel poor recently. I’ve not got to grips with it, because I’ll be owed money but there’ll be no money in my bank account and I’m like ‘why aren’t you paying me, come on guys!’ so I’m trying to get used to that bit of it.

Bethany: Other people’s unreliability.

Lotty: Just chasing money.

Bethany: And there’s no one that’s accountable to you. If I get paid slightly late I know to email Denise in HR, and she will sort it, whereas you have like 50 Denises in HR to be like ‘please pay me, please care!’

Lotty: Yeah like ‘do you remember me? You owe me money!’ I’m getting a bit stricter with that, I’m being a bit smarter with doing it, but I totally think it’s, in my industry anyway, in journalism, I think you’re crazy not to get a blog and protect yourself. When I was at Studentmoneysaver I felt for a long time there was a possibility I was going to lose my role there and it gave me such calm knowing that there was a backup, with this blog, it wasn’t making any money at that time at all. I knew I could do something with it… I wasn’t going to be sat in my house like I was when I first moved to London and became really depressed…

Bethany: And read Twilight.

Lotty: And read Twilight.

Bethany: You knew that if push came to shove, you could monetise the stuff that you’ve build.

Lotty: And what I’ve realised is that it’s all about having the balls to ask people. Pitch. Ask for things. And I’m not good at that. I’ve always been a bit like ‘oh I don’t want to embarrass myself or put anyone out of their way’ but honestly the key to doing well in this game is just asking for it.

Bethany: I think it’s really important to recognise that you think that everyone knows what you know, but recognising that you have some kind of special insight or skill or experience that other people don’t have, you can monetise that. You can totally monetise and exploit the fact that other people don’t know the stuff that you know, and there’s a reason that people come to your blog, to read about what you know. It’s because you’re an authority, and I think it’s really easy to devalue that and just be like ‘oh I am nothing special.’

Lotty: Because I’m a personal finance… like ‘soft money’ like credit cards, shopping, holidays, I’ve always had a bit of, not a chip on my shoulder, but I’m always like ‘I’m not real money, I’m not stocks and bonds’ but do I look like a fraud?

Bethany: Is this stuff that anyone could know about?

Lotty: But like everyone knows you can use a coupon in a supermarket, right?

Bethany: People probably don’t!

Lotty: But I know how to maximise that so you’re not waiting your time on 30p coupons so little things like that. It’s all about self-belief in this game, honestly. I’d figured that the older I get the more it’s like… no one knows what they’re talking about, the people who bullshit and push themselves do well.

Bethany: And you do know stuff, and you are not bullshitting, so you deserve to be there as much as anyone else, if not more.

Lotty: Thank you. It’s just an issue you have where you go ‘I don’t belong here, I’m lucky I won that,’ it’s just impostor syndrome isn’t it?

Bethany: Totally, and I think that’s very common. So what area of spending do you think has the most capacity for saving? So, like, travel, groceries, leisure, gym membership… anything. Where do you think the most money can be saved, or where you can spend the least money to get what you want?

Lotty: So, travel, I think, is the most interesting one for me.

Bethany: Like international travel?

Lotty: International travel, so, but well… even if you look at train travel here, if you split your ticket you can save up to 70% on your ticket.

Bethany: Oh my god I hate paying for train travel and I’d never look into split tickets.

Lotty: They’ve got brilliant tools, you can just put it in. I don’t know if you know how it works, but if you go from Swansea to London, for example.

Bethany: Which you do because that’s where you’re from.

Lotty: That is where I’m from. A ticket would cost £60 which is ridiculous because it’s cheaper to go to France on a plane, but if you get a split ticket and you pay for, potentially, a single to Bristol and then a single to Cardiff and a single to Swansea, that could be £30.

Bethany: But do you have to get off the train in Bristol?

Lotty: You don’t have to get off the train.

[Bethany gasps]

Lotty: And that’s split ticketing.

Bethany: I would always assume it meant you had to buy one single to Bristol, then a single from Bristol to Cardiff and Cardiff to Swansea and that they were all different trains.

Lotty: No, no, it’s all on the same one.

Bethany: This is genius.

Lotty: There are tools that can do it.

Bethany: Ok so name the tools just for the people listening.

Lotty: MoneySavingExpert’s got TicketySplit. That’s the main one. I forgot what the other one is called. That’s the main one.

Bethany: That’s ok, I’ll put a link where I am able to.

Lotty: Yeah, TicketySplit, my friend made it, it’s awesome. And with flights there’s this trick you can do called hidden city ticketing.

Bethany: I saw this on your blog!

Lotty: Yeah!

Bethany: I’m fascinated by it. Can you just, in a nutshell, explain what that is?

Lotty: There are lots of airport hubs around the world, some are better than other, like New York, that’s a big one, and because lots of people go to New York it’s quite expensive to go there, but Oslo, not a lot of people go there, and the tourist industry there want you to go there. So it’ll be quite cheap to fly there, so what you can do if you are happy to spend time figuring this out, and what I did, I wanted to go to New York but I did it via Oslo, which is a bit weird but it works like that, which meant I got return tickets for, I want to say, £230.

Bethany: On a normal airline?

Lotty: On British Airways, direct. Whereas the same ticket at the same time was like £600. So what you do is, instead of actually flying to Oslo, you get off where you change. Which would have been New York. So you can’t take a suitcase because that would have ended up in Oslo.

Bethany: Aaaaaah yeah, I knew there was something in your article that made me be like ‘there is a catch.’ Not a catch, but an inconvenience.

Lotty: You can’t take a suitcase. So if you’re happy to figure it out, find the cheap hubs, fly to them and get weird stops but the stop is where you actually want to go. That’s how you can cut loads off. And there’s an amazing website called Holiday Pirates.And they find these crazy-cheap holidays and flights, all the glitches, mistakes, hidden tickets.

Bethany: I’m going to start stalking Holiday Pirates.

Lotty: You go on there and you’re like ‘I can’t believe how cheap this holiday is.’

Bethany: You’ve truly inspired me. I need to think big about my travel booking rather than just accepting what is offered to me by Skyscanner or wherever.

Lotty: I’m a big believer in the fact that you’ll never regret the money you spend on a holiday, for me anyway, as long as you’re not in debt or anything. I just think it’s worth more than clothes or…

Bethany: But you shouldn’t spend any more on it than you have to, and if you can get a cheap one that’s so much better.

Lotty: You’ve got to clear your cookies and that kind of thing.

Bethany: I always look in an Incognito window- is that the same.

Lotty: Yeah.

Bethany: Whenever I’m looking at the price of anything that could fluctuate, I always look in an Incognito browser on Chrome. Is that the same?

Lotty: Yeah.

Bethany: Ok cool.

Lotty: SecretHotels as well, that’s another one. So a hotel having an empty room is a waste of money but they can’t, like, if you’re the Ritz, you can’t reduce…

Bethany: You can’t be seen to be charging £100 a night for a £700 room.

Lotty: Exactly. So what they do is, there’s a website called Hotwire, that’s the one I use, but there’s also one on LastMinute, and they’ll go ‘there’s a hotel, it’s in this area, it’s five stars, a room is usually £400 a night but it’s going to be £150 a night’ but you don’t get to know the hotel until you’ve paid for it.

Bethany: But it’s not that hard to figure it out, right, if they use certain words in the description…

Lotty: You could Google it and figure it out.

Bethany: But even if you couldn’t, how bad is it going to be?

Lotty: If it’s a five star hotel in a certain area, it’s fine, isn’t it?

Bethany: It’s not going to be some fleapit shithole. It’s certainly not. What is your one favourite app or site or resource that you think is the one, for any area?

Lotty: This is easy: Quidco.

Bethany: I knew you were going to say that and I was worried you were going to say that because I feel like I’ve wasted my life by not using Quidco.

Lotty: Oh my God. Are you not using Quidco?

[Bethany bursts out into a cackle]

Lotty: I feel like you must buy all the clothes as well!

Bethany: I spend a lot of money on the internet! And I don’t use Quidco!

Lotty: I’ve honestly saved about £1,000

Bethany: I feel sick. I’ve wasted my life.

Lotty: Over the last three years because I’m a shopper too. If you don’t know what Quidco is, it’s a cashback site. There’s also TopCashback and ToBeSeen, which was made by Kate Thornton recently.

Bethany: That’s wild.

Lotty: Bit weird. So, every time you shop via Quidco, for, I don’t know, Topshop or whatever, they’ll give you a percentage of the money you spend back. I think ASOS it’s 10%.

Bethany: I spend so much money on ASOS and I’ve been squandering this fortune…

Lotty: Yeah, you get 10% back, another one is HungryHouse, I get 10% back on there, and it all adds up. I get my flights through there.

Bethany: I’m going to make myself really rich via Quidco.

Lotty: You so need to do this, it’s like… yeah. It’s so good.

Bethany: As soon as I said ‘what is your favourite site?’ I knew I was going to learn something that I should have known.

Lotty: It’s money you spend and you get 10% of it.

Bethany: And I’ve known Quidco exists for such a long time and I just haven’t taken advantage of it. I don’t know why! I’m wasting my life.

Lotty: It’s so good, yeah. Get into it.

Bethany: So, we are sitting in the studio and you are holding a bottle of water, but I know what you would rather be holding is a bottle of Diet Coke. Tell me about the Diet Coke situation.

Lotty: So I’ve been massively addicted to Diet Coke since I was about 13. So, I went to Weight Watchers when I was a 13-year-old girl and they peddle Diet Coke on you.

Bethany: They do, I was, myself, in Weight Watchers when I was 17 and they basically, at least at that time, they assign points values to food based on a mixture of the calories and the saturated fat, and Diet Coke has no, basically, the nutritional value of Diet Coke, they sell it to you as being the same as water, so you are really encouraged to drink Diet Coke. It has no points.

Lotty: It fills you up and it’s sweet.

Bethany: It feels like you’re consuming something but it has no points. So for the Weight Watchers world, that is a big sell. So I’m not surprised that anyone that’s been through Weight Watchers comes out feeling like Diet Coke is their best friend.

Lotty: I’ve been going to… but thankfully stopped, been going to Slimming World and Weight Watchers for 20 years. The amount of times I’ve been going. I’d go and I’d quit and then go back a few months later… yeah, and Slimming World again peddles… I would drink a lot of that, and I was massively addicted. I’d have, like, at least six cans a day. Two litres. I could even do more. It’s a lot of money, and I used to smoke and I used to be like ‘you know what, Diet Coke’s the least of my problems,’ you know what I mean?

Bethany: I’ve got enough other stuff going on, I can have my Diet Coke.

Lotty: It’s not going to kill you, right? Then one day for an article, I just wrote down how much I had spent on it. And it was, like, £20,000.

Bethany: TWENTY GRAND OF DIET COKE.

Lotty: And I was like… do I even like this stuff? If I think about it, I honestly drink it first thing in the morning, because I needed it and if I didn’t have it in the fridge, I would start having it. And that’s like, when I used to smoke. That’s the same sort of symptoms. I am properly addicted to this stuff. I don’t want to be! They’re mugging me off here! So I’m just gonna go cold turkey.

Bethany: And remove Diet Coke from your life.

Lotty: And weirdly, as soon as I quit, I stopped craving sugar.

Bethany: Even though there isn’t sugar in Diet Coke, it was the sweetness.

Lotty: My body was like ‘where’s the sugar then?’ and was making me want it. I don’t have as much sugar as I used to have.

Bethany: Good for your teeth!

Lotty: I’ve got some fake teeth! That’s how bad Diet Coke was: I’ve got fake teeth!

Bethany: I guess consuming that much fizzy stuff, like, fizzing against your teeth is not good. Note: I am not a dentist so take everything I say about your teeth with a pinch of salt.

Lotty: I just think anything that you’re addicted to, I’m like… I get really annoyed at people who are like ‘It’s really bad for you’ and I’m like ‘yeah, I know. Fine.’ But I think it took me writing it down and going ‘you’re drinking all this and you’ve no choice in the matter’

Bethany: Feeling like ‘this isn’t something I enjoy, this is something that I feel like I cannot live without’, this totally superfluous item, it’s not water- you wouldn’t literally die without it. And it’s nice to have stuff you like!

Lotty: You know what? From writing that article, I’ve had hundreds of people come to me and, like… ‘what you drink is nothing compared to what I do, I am fully, fully addicted’ and I think it’s a really big problem for a lot of people.

Bethany: Diet Coke. Have you tried Coke Zero?

Lotty: Yeah… I’m now just water.

Bethany: You’re water-only.

Lotty: I’m water-only.

Bethany: Because I’m a big… not to get you back on the wagon but I’m such a big fan of Coke Zero. I love it. I think it’s delicious.

Lotty: Are you everyday drinking it?

Bethany: I do not drink it every day. I would never have tried it but I was travelling for work and my boss had one and he said to me ‘shall I get you one?’ and even though I didn’t want one I knew that i I didn’t get one I would feel jealous that he had it, so I said ‘yeah, I will have one, thank you!’ and from that day forward my love for Coke Zero was born. And Diet Coke Cherry is vile but Coke Zero Cherry is delicious.

Lotty: Interesting.

Bethany: So that’s my take.

Lotty: I don’t get those people who are, like, ‘you can’t tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke’

Bethany: You honestly can.

Lotty: You’ve got no tastebuds! They’re totally different! I don’t know… I’ve just got to the point now, I’ve noticed, that there are certain foods I can’t eat. I’m 31 and honestly from about 28, I’m getting the worst heartburn after cream. I’m getting IBS if I’m eating wheat, so I’m trying to do this thing where I’ve been doing this almost ‘clean eating’ thing where I’ve gone back to basics to see what food is making me ill.

Bethany: Yep,

Lotty: It’s been really fascinating to look at what food is doing to you.

Bethany: The effect that what you’re consuming has on you. And because, for so long, if everything to do with food and food consumption is uniquely linked to weight loss, if you’re doing it through this Weight Watchers, Slimming World situation, you only ever see it through that lens, and you never think about, like… and as soon as you stop doing that and you’re like ‘great, my life is great again, I’m not tied to this silly Points system or counting calories,’ you forget that, like, food has other properties than calories, and it can have an effect on you. I recently discovered that I can’t eat bulgur wheat, and I can eat other kinds of wheat but bulgur wheat makes me feel so unbelievably ill, and before that I would have just been like ‘oh I guess I ate too much food? And that’s why I don’t feel very well’ but this time I was like ‘I know I ate the same amount as my boyfriend and he is fine, and I feel like I’m going to die’ and it’s the bulgur wheat! So I ate it again and it was the bulgur wheat! But I think that’s a really sinister side-effect of making fat people like myself only focus on, like, their health as a consequent and related factor to their fatness. Because it means that you’re completely disconnected from all the other kinds of health and that you only see food as, like, a thing with calories rather than all of the other stuff that goes on with food.

Lotty: I’ve been talking to a nutritionist and she said what I have, what a lot of people have is this disconnect from their head and their bodies. They don’t think about what’s going on, it’s all in the head, it’s the weighing scale, it’s the size clothes you are. So you’re not thinking, when you’re eating, what it’s doing to your body. I used to have horrendous, horrendous heartburn and I’d just assume it’s because I’m fat. It’s because I’m eating shit.

Bethany: You totally internalise it!

Lotty: And it’s not! It’s because I’m not good with dairy.

Bethany: Yeah!

Lotty: That’s what it is. It’s just you assume it’s because you’re a shit person and you’re awful and you deserve it… I’ve had a lifetime of, like, hating my body. Just going… starving myself, you know, like…

Bethany: Yo-yo dieting.

Lotty: Taking horrible pills. All sorts of things. And you do have this disconnect, you don’t know what hurts your body.

Bethany: Because you are not allowed to think about it in the same way that a thin person would. If a thin person didn’t feel very well after they ate something, they’d be like ‘oh! The food has hurt me’ and that would be a totally normal thing, whereas, to a fat person, you’re like ‘I am not connected to my health in any way because my health has been completely linked to my fatness and I have no insight into what is good for my body beyond what I’m told is, like, a weight loss food’ and it’s wild and it’s wild that we’ve got to this position.

Lotty: When this nutritionist came to me, I was a bit like… I’m not really interested in this, I’m not interested in dieting, I’m not interested in these things. And I was like… I’m not here for you to tell me I can’t have sugar, I can’t have this and that, and I’m tired. And she was like ‘I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t eat, I want you to try it and take it back to the beginning and then you see what you can and you can’t eat.’

Bethany: And what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad.

Lotty: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, but… I’ve lost a lot of weight before. I’ve been thinner and it didn’t last, right?

Bethany: And yo-yo dieting is so bad for you.

Lotty: And you just go… it’s not me… I eat healthy, I exercise, it’s not fair… but you’re eating in this really weird way that you’re not supposed to. You go to Slimming World and you’re eating 6 fat free yoghurts. It’s been really interesting to look at food in a new way, without weight being a…

Bethany: Motivating factor.

Lotty: Yeah. It’s been freeing.

Bethany: The whole weight loss industry, Slimming World, Weight Watchers and the like, are built on failure. If diets worked, and you can’t see this because this is an audio programme, but I am doing air quotes around ‘diets’ ‘failed’. If diets didn’t fail, if diets were able to work long-term, then stuff like Slimming World and Weight Watchers wouldn’t exist because people would lose weight once and keep it off for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t happen. Most studies into, and again, air quotes, ‘obesity,’ only follow people that have lost a substantial amount of weight for 18 months, which isn’t long enough to truly see the long-term impact of that. But if you followed people for three years what you’d see is that 97% of those people regain all the weight that they’ve lost. So by creating this culture of… ‘we will put you on this programme and it will have instant success, or at least very quick success,’ that encourages you to keep going back, because you believe that this time will be different. But, like, it won’t be different!

Lotty: Honestly, it took me… I consider myself a bright girl. I’m bright. I’m savvy. I’ve done it, honestly, for 20 years… and I knew it wasn’t going to work, but it works for a little bit and you go ‘it’s you. You are the problem. You left. You did.’

Bethany: You just didn’t try hard enough. And I also think we need to be more critical of the personal responsibility of fat people to lose weight. Like, yeah, sure, it’s true, I’m sure it’s true, that if most people went to Slimming World and followed ‘the rules’ they would lose weight, but the fact is, most people don’t keep it off. And whether that’s a personal responsibility thing, or it’s just a response to the culture we live in, the culture that is food-obsessed, the golden age of eating out culture, especially in London, food advertising, whatever big companies claim they’re trying to do about it. We’re bombarded by stuff that’s telling us how delicious food is and that we should be consuming it.

Lotty: I always used to think that being fat is really, really hard. You go through life feeling shit, you take up too much space…

Bethany: It’s embarrassing being fat…

Lotty: You have to worry about… am I gonna fit in a plane? Am I gonna fit in a theme park? There’s all this shit, right, it’s not easy being fat, it’s really hard. Unless you’re pretty overweight you can’t understand the daily burden of it. And then you’re like dieting and exercise, that’s hard too, but probably being fat’s harder right.

Bethany: Yeah.

Lotty: Not eating, would that be easier?

Bethany: They are both really difficult. The psychological…

Lotty: You just get tired and it’s like, the amount of time I think about food and weight, it’s exhausting, isn’t it?

Bethany: And, like, what if I didn’t do that? What if I lived my life based on other stuff? What if other principles guided my life. And as soon as you start being like ‘I’m not going to think about what I’m eating’ it’s kind of easy to let go, and you do just become, kind of, magically happier if you are able to do that.

Lotty: I feel like you’re in a better space than me. Do you never, like, panic, and you go, ‘if I just ate whatever I wanted… I would balloon up’ and the constant stress of… you can’t just do what you want…

Bethany: I don’t know… I never really think about that.

Lotty: I think I get a bit neurotic about these things, you’ve got to have this control. It’s hard to say.

Bethany: Yeah, and it is a psychological obsession. I’m not surprised so many people in our culture have trouble with eating. We are culturally not set up to make good decision about food.

Bethany: Ok, well, I’ve had a delightful time talking to you, and I’m going to ask you a few questions to end this encounter.

Lotty: Sure.

Bethany: If you could find a moneysaving glitch on any website, what would be your dream place to shop on with a massive-

Lotty: Anthropologie.

Bethany: For, like, homeware?

Lotty: For homeware. I just bought a place and… I can’t fill it with nice things and everything is beautiful on that website.

Bethany: It certainly is. Next question: which emoji do you feel represents you the best.

Lotty: The shit one.

Bethany: The smiling poo.

Lotty: The smiling poo.

Bethany: That’s a good one!

Lotty: The best one.

Bethany: If you were going to go to the shop and buy some crisps, what brand and flavour would you buy?

Lotty: Ok this is not a simple question. But probably Monster Munch beef flavour.

Bethany: So Michael said exactly the same thing.

Lotty: He has good taste. They’re an excellent crisp. Pickled onion are good too, but the beef one… especially the big bags, the 99p ones.

Bethany: This is so wild, like, two people who I’ve asked this question to on Hello Friend have both said Monster Munch beef or pickled onion and not said flamin’ hot. This is so interesting, you and Michael need to talk.

Lotty: I’ve got no problem with flamin’ hot. I’ll have it. But I’ve got a lot of opinions on crisps and those beef ones are beautiful.

Bethany: They are, and they don’t really taste like beef. They’re just, like, something else, salty…

Lotty: Salty meat.

[Bethany laughs]

Bethany: And my final question: is there anyone you’d like me to talk to on this show that you can think of that you’d be like ‘I want to hear a chat with that person.’

Lotty: Hmmm… probably talk to Callie. Are you getting Callie on? Killing it, isn’t she.

Bethany: She’s at the top of her game, and she’d be great for chat. I need people that are chatty, I can’t have strong and silent types on this programme. I need to talk to people who like talking and Callie likes talking and I like that about her. Thank you so much!

Lotty: Thanks for having me on!

Bethany: It was a pleasure!